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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Savoury, a herb to conjure with

The peppery taste of savoury goes well with fresh green beans; in many continental street markets vegetable dealers pop a few sprigs of savoury in with every purchase of runner beans or french beans. Savoury also lends a special note to hearty dishes based on lentils and other pulses or cabbage. These ingredients taste good, but they have a reputation for causing flatulence, which savoury counteracts. Savoury emphasises the flavour of lamb, poultry and fried fish like carp and mackerel. It also combines well with cucumber salad, mushroom dishes, potato soup, Mediterranean vegetable dishes and pasta.

Cooking with savoury

In salads you should use only fresh leaves finely chopped, because they have a milder taste than the dried leaves. Savoury combines well with marjoram, dill, basil and tarragon. It’s a constituent of many herb mixes like “Herbes de Provence”. Savoury has a very intense flavour, so it should be used sparingly. In stews and hotpots, simply cook fresh or dried sprigs of savoury along with the dish and take them out before serving. Savoury contains essential oils and tannins and is rich in vitamin C. It has a positive effect on the digestive system, it’s good for digestion and boosts your appetite. Savoury tea is said to help with coughs and hoarseness.

A bit of botany

Savoury, a member of the Labiatae family of flowering, aromatic plants, comes originally from the eastern Mediterranean. Benedictine monks are said to have brought the herb to Europe in the 9th century. There are two types of savoury plant, an annual and a perennial. The annual savoury (Satureja hortensis) grows about 40 centimetres high with dark green, lanceolate leaves. To grow savoury successfully in your garden, choose a warm and sunny spot with loose humus-rich soil. Sew seeds in April and harvest the leaves just before the plant flowers, because that’s when they have the most intense aroma.

Storing savoury

Savoury can be successfully dried and it keeps most of its strong flavour for a long time. To dry savoury tie the sprigs together and hang them upside down somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight. Once the herbs are dry, crumble the leaves off the stalks and store them in airtight jars. 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de